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Pollution charge against distillers is withdrawn

April 19th, 2024 2:30 PM

Pollution charge against distillers is withdrawn Image
The N71 roundabout displaying barrels from the nearby West Cork Distillers distillery. (Photo: Andrew Harris)

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A PROSECUTION against West Cork Distillers Limited following the killing of 2,000 fish in the Ilen River in Skibbereen in July 2021 has been withdrawn by Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Vincent Coakley, acting as solicitor for Inland Fisheries Ireland, indicated at Skibbereen District Court on Tuesday last that it was withdrawing all three charges.

The company, which is located at Marsh Road in Skibbereen, had pleaded guilty to the charges at a previous sitting of the court in April 2022.

The charges alleged that the company had caused or permitted polluting matters to enter the River Ilen; permitted or caused deleterious matter to enter the river; and had discharged or permitted trade effluent to enter the river on July 21st 2021.

Mr Coakley said Inland Fisheries Ireland was now withdrawing the prosecution ‘for internal reasons’.

He said there have been ‘difficulties with prosecution because of internal​ difficulties,’ but ​he offered no further explanation.

When the case was heard two years ago, Judge McNulty noted ​that if he were to impose the maximum fine on each of the three charges ​it could have amounted to €15,000 in penalties.

Instead of convicting the company and imposing penalties​, he invited West Cork Distillers to make a €1,000 donation to each of the 26 Tidy Town committees operating in West Cork.

He also adjourned the case for two years to ensure there were no further incidents and requested that the company pay Inland ​Fisheries ​Ireland’s costs of €5,500.

If all was well at the end of the two years, Judge McNulty said he would give the company the benefit of a conditional discharge, otherwise known as the Probation Act, which is not a conviction.

Given that the Inland Fisheries Ireland had withdrawn the charge – rendering the prosecution void – the company’s barrister Stephen O’Donoghue asked for the €5,500 back.

Solicitor Vincent Coakley said the legal costs would be refunded to the company of solicitors acting for West Cork Distillers.

Mr O’Donoghue pointed out that the company had no wish to recoup the €26,000, which was already donated to the Tidy Town committees.

Previously, Judge McNulty had outlined his reasons for wanting to give the company the benefit of a conditional discharge.

He said they had issued an early plea; carried out remedial work; had taken steps to prevent a recurrence; and it was also a successful enterprise, offering lots of local employment.

At court on Tuesday, Judge McNulty ​also said: ‘The company dealt with the matter in a noble and gracious manner.’

As it stands, West Cork Distillers ​now has no charge or conviction against it.

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